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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

yia yia's banana pudding!

There is nothing I enjoy more than the great taste of summer fruit:

peaches - Have you ever been peach picking? That peach fuzz is on there for a reason.... to make you itch and scratch for a few days! hahahaha,

strawberries - I remember picking them with my grandfather. He would actually pick them, I would eat them as he dropped them in the bowl. He didn't mind though.

blueberries - my former in-laws had bushes and bushes of berries. What a summer treat!! Delicious... I didn't mind picking the blueberries or strawberries.

grapes - My slinky is still probably in "Papa Jimmy's" grape vine somewhere on Hyland Drive.

I enjoy all fruit except for one. Banana. I will eat banana bread and banana cake (Have you ever had a banana cake with cream cheese and pecan frosting?..... good). I can eat it if served in a dessert, but I do not like to eat a plain banana. They're not juicy nor crunchy. Just "blah" texture. Are there any other fruits like it? ...ok, perhaps raisins and dates. I'd rather eat a giant bowl of lima beans to get the potassium! I have such a sweet tooth though, so a banana muffin brought to me by a coworker was much appreciated in the morning. I will say that I do make a good banana pudding. It is a recipe from my dad's aunt. We used to call her yia yia Maria. Yia Yia is greek for grandmother. Since I never knew my grandmothers, we called her yia yia. It's funny the things you remember about people. I remember her KITCHEN! The flames of her gas stove, the hugs, the love and the warmth felt in her kitchen. Her recipe for banana pudding was my dad's favorite. I decided that for a big crowd I would just double the recipe and have twice as much. I slaved over the stove making the custard until it was just right (so I thought). Beautifully decorated pan with Nila Vanilla Wafers (Nila is the ONLY brand I will use). I thought.. It looks kind of thin, but it will thicken after sitting in the refrigerator. I was so proud... This is one of my dad's favorite desserts. He will be so surprised! Who doesn't like banana pudding? .... well, me really, but I eat around the bananas! It's a southern classic. Meringue on top, baked to a golden brown, slivered almonds sprinkled on top. Yes, a masterpiece!! I thought. Time to serve the pudding. It didn't thicken at all! Oh no! How embarrassing! Being from a family of jokers and everyone having a sense of humor, my brother put it in a cup and proudly stated. "This is the best banana pudding I ever drank!!". Peels of laughter and a lot of fun. I guess someone at the fast food places must have had the same thing happen to them. Have you seen banana pudding milkshakes on the menu?? Yes, I did it first!!! :)

Here's her recipe.... Just a hint though: I wouldn't double the recipe.

Banana Pudding

Vanilla Wafers as needed
3 large, ripe bananas
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 quart milk
3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs, separatede
3 heaping Tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
slivered almonds or pecan pieces

Line a 7 X 11 baking pan with vanilla wafers and sliced bananas sprinkled with lemon juice. Top with more wafers. Layer bananas and wafers... I use as many wafers as banana slices. I would like a "non" banana pudding too... just "wafer" pudding! :)

Bring milk to slow boil in 2 quart saucepan

Beat egg yolks with cornstarch and sugar. Stir hot milk gradually into egg mixture. Return to saucepan. Cook over low heat until mixture thickens. If thicker mixture is desired, add more cornstarch. Remove from heat, blend in 1 teaspoon of the vanilla. Pour pudding mixture over wafers and bananas.

Beat egg whites until stiff. Gradually add 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Spread meringue over pudding. Sprinkle with almonds or pecans. Place under broiler until golden. Watch carefully!! Serves 8-10

Recipe of Mrs. Mary Pefinis (my yia yia Maria)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Grilled Vegetables with Pasta

Yellow squash was a staple at our house. We would see it year round in a pan with tomatoes and onions. During the winter and fall, it is one of my many "comfort" foods. A big bowl of squash and potatoes is delicious. Since summer is here, I don't eat hot soups or stews, but choose to have meals that don't heat up the kitchen. I enjoy cooking on the grill. If it can be cooked on the grill, I will try it.

Here is my recipe for summer vegetables cooked on the grill.

You can vary the amounts to more of your favorite vegetable.

5 small yellow squash (I like the smallest squash-I don't like the larger seeds in this recipe)
1 can artichokes (in water not marinated), drained
1 vidalia onion sliced
5 Roma tomatoes, sliced in one inch pieces
8 ounces farfalle pasta (bow tie pasta)
fresh parmasan cheese, shredded
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1/8 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped fine
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
Olive oil
lemon juice

I usually make this over a charcoal grill. Slice squash and tomatoes into slices about 1/4 inch thick. Lightly brush with olive oil. Place squash and onions on grill pan and cook until tender. I like to raise the heat towards the end to get nice grill marks on the squash. Put the tomato slices on the grill pan and heat until heated through. Add artichoke hearts and heat until golden.

While the veggies are on the grill, cook the pasta according to package directions. I prefer the "al dente" texture. In large bowl, place the pasta and grilled vegetables. Add chopped parsley, basil, lemon pepper, salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and a bit of lemon juice. Toss and serve.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The "All American Sandwich"

(some of my "must haves" on a sandwich in the above photo... This was a snack as I don't put crackers on my subs!!~ not yet anyway)

What is the "All American Sandwich"? I guess it will depend on where you live in the country. Philadelphia, New York, New Orleans, all have their own special sandwich that is "All American". I'm sure that practically everyone has had a grilled cheese or peanut butter and jelly sandwich if they went to school in the U.S. I know my youngest son ate his share of peanut butter and jelly as well as grilled cheese. I don't think there is a sandwich I wouldn't try. Cole slaw on a sandwich? Sure why not? French Fries on a sandwich?....yeah, I'll try
that too!

When I was a student studying in Paris, I would go on picnics with my friends. A fresh baguette, still warm from the bakery, Swiss cheese, ham, and Dijon mustard was a great treat. How can one refuse a sandwich on a crusty baguette? When ordering some sandwiches, the French would use butter on the bread instead of mayonnaise. I must say that I liked the taste. My oldest used to eat ham sandwiches with butter too. Of course, Brad would eat a stick of butter if I would have let him.

My father has to be the all time peanut butter sandwich eater of the world! Even if he was going out to brunch with friends, his day would start with a peanut butter sandwich on toast and a cup of hot tea. I rarely eat peanut butter sandwiches, but when I do, I prefer the extra crunchy kind with strawberry jam! (Dad ate smooth). Delicious on toast for breakfast. I guess it runs in the family.

Sandwiches are a quick fix and can be nutritious and healthy, or they can be "down right" high in fat laden with cheeses, salami, and cold cuts of different kinds. Sometimes, I like a nice Italian sub with "the works"!! Olives, tomatoes, bell peppers, pepperocini, lettuce, pickles, and cucumbers. I like cucumbers on sandwiches. It gives a nice crunch, plus I like the taste of cucumber. On my sub (as we call them in the south), I like an oil and vinegar dressing with oregano, salt and pepper.

Today, I had a few cups of tea for breakfast, but had not had lunch. I remember my mom used to make fried egg sandwiches for us when we were kids. I still like them. I fried a few eggs over easy in butter, sliced some tomatoes and warmed them in the pan too. All I had was a hogie roll, so that was what I used for the bread. Swiss cheese, tomato, and fried egg sandwich. Just a little salt and pepper are all that is needed to adorn this treat. I must admit, I needed a fork too as I don't like my yolk cooked through. What a delicious lunch that brought back memories of my childhood.

Another favorite sandwich of mine is a vine ripe tomato sandwich on white bread with mayo. For some reason, whole wheat just doesn't do the tomato justice! I guess it is because of the childhood tradition. I don't eat as much meat as I used to, but a BLT (bacon, lettuce, and tomato) was another favorite sandwich for the summer. My youngest son, David, doesn't like veggies, so he would just eat a bacon sandwich with a few pieces of bacon on the side! :)

One of my favorite hot sandwiches is the Reuben. Corned Beef, Sauerkraut, Swiss Cheese, and special dressing and bread spread! YUM!

So many varieties that I enjoy, so many new ones to try. ...and the breads? Pita, pumpernickel, white, lavash, whole grain, baguette, Italian, onion roll, etc... I like them all! To me, it's not the ingredients, but the BREAD that makes the sandwich! The heartier, the better!

So many varieties... and only 365 days in a year! That could be an interesting blog.... "365 days of sandwiches"!!

Sandra Gadd is like a sister to me. I've known her for years. We have spent many lunches, afternoon teas, dinners, etc... together with family. When ever our family would have a celebration of any kind, I would always request her Tortilla Roll-Ups. It's the kind of recipe that is great for a night of watching football with friends, bridal or baby showers, easy picnic dinner, or something to make ahead for the lunch box.

  • Tortilla Roll-Ups
  • 2 8 oz packages of cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 small can green chili peppers, chopped and drained
  • 1 small can black olives, chopped and drained
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 package large flour tortillas (8 to a package)
  • Picante Sauce
Put cream cheese in food processor with a few tablespoons picante sauce

Blend until smooth

Add remaining ingredients, mixing well

Spread mixture on each tortilla, dividing evenly

Roll up tortilla tightly and store in plastic bag for several hours or over night until firm

when ready to serve, slice into small pinwheels (1/4 to 1/2 inch thick)

Serve with picante sauce for dipping

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Lamb Burger

My local grocery store usually does not have ground lamb. Of course, I could ask for it and have it in a day or so, but I was just in the mood for lamb. When I'm in the mood for some specific item like ground lamb, mussels, crab or any specialty cheese, I shop at Whole Foods. They have always had the ingredients that I need for any meal. Their selection of homemade sausages; including lamb sausage, was very tempting, but I had my mind set on a lamb burger. Today, I was in the mood for Greek food. Off to whole foods I go..... (I always get a small cart while I'm there or else, I'd purchase half of the store!) I really enjoy the freshness of their meats, cheeses, breads, and produce.

Lamb Burgers

1.15 pounds lamb (you can use a pound, but this was the weight of my pack)
zest of one lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tsp Greek oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves, coarsely chopped

I gently mix the ingredients and let it sit for about 30 minutes before forming patties. Using 1/2 cup measure, I made 5 patties and grilled over charcoal for about 7 minutes per side. Then let them rest.

I served them with fresh steamed green beans served with butter and lemon pepper, sliced tomato half grilled on the grill, tzatziki sauce, crusty ciabatta Italian bread, cheese, and Greek olives. What a treat! It was delicious.

For the sauce I altered the previous recipe to make a small amount. We'll just call it "lamb burger sauce"

1 8 oz container Greek style yogurt (plain, non-fat)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 small pickling cucumber, finely grated and moisture squeezed out in cheesecloth.
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Summer Soup

As a rule, I don't make soup until the first frost of the year. It gives me something to look forward to in the cooler months. I have my fall/winter recipes and my spring/summer recipes. I don't think I've ever made hot soups in the summer. Cold soup I will eat. I've made avocado soup, cold potato soup (Vichyssoise), cucumber/yogart soup (based on Tzatziki sauce) and my favorite Gazpacho soup. The original recipe was from a Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. I took her basic ingredients and changed the amounts of my favorite ingredient, and lessened the amounts of my least favorite ingredients. I use the smallest onions I can find as I'm not wild about raw onions (...and in the summer, they have to be sweet Vidalia onions grown in south Georgia). She uses more garlic than I prefer, so I changed that amount too. I added more herbs because I grown them on my patio and use them whenever I think they will enhance a dish. I also added olives. I can eat olives by the bowlful, so I may as well add them to this wonderful soup.


8 pickling cucumbers,, halved and seeded
3 bell peppers: cored, seeded and chopped (I use one of each: green, red, and yellows)
8 plum tomatoes
2 small Vidalia onions (I'm not much on raw onion, so I use the small one and mince it)
4 garlic cloves, minced
46 ounces tomato juice (6 cups)
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup good olive oil (I used extra virgin olive oil from Kalamata, Greece....I'm Greek, What can I say? :D
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
6 springs of lemon thyme: I grow it on my patio, so I use it in a lot of things
10 or so fresh basil leaves: I grow this too.. so use it often
Italian parsley (1/2 cup chopped): Yet another herb I grow!
lemon juice to taste (I squeeze the lemon on individual servings as I like the citrus taste)
For Garnishing the soup:
black, green, and Kalamata olives 1/2 cup
lemon slices
3 or 4 chopped green onions

Roughly chop each type of vegetable. Put each type vegetable separately in food processor, and pulse until coarsely chopped. Don't process too much or you will have puree. After each vegetable is processed, or chopped by hand, combine in large bowl. Add garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, oil, salt, pepper and herbs if desired. Mix well and chill. The longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop.

This is a nice refreshing soup. I served with crusty Italian bread slices. Since making it for the first time, I have decided that I like the bits of vegetables more chunky than the result in the food processor.

Italian bread slices

Slices of hearty Italian bread (Get the very hearty loaf, not the prewrapped soft Italian bread), drizzled with olive oil, topped with grated lemon zest, shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, minced dill, and ground pepper. Toast until golden.

Especially nice for hot days in the U.S. with temps over 90 F.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

New Restaurants

I like nothing more than food and everything connected with it: menu planning, reading cookbooks, grocery shopping (Yes, I love it), preparing meals, and enjoying them with family and friends. I'm always trying something new for dinner. Last night, I made vegetarian paella! It was good, but the saffron did not give the rice it's beautiful golden color! That's another story for another time.

Being from Atlanta, there are so many restaurants from which to choose. If a restaurant is famous for burgers, by all means, I'm going to have one of their burgers on the first visit. I went to Ted's Montana Grill and had a burger. It was fabulous! So, I've now tried many, many of their burgers since they are known for them. If the national soup of Viet-Nam is Pho, then that is the soup I will try at a Vietnamese restaurant. Pancakes at the "Original Pancake House", etc....

As a rule, I'm not a heavy breakfast eater. I'm just not hungry in the mornings. I really enjoy breakfast foods though. Yesterday, I went to a local cafe called "The Flying Biscuit Cafe". It was around noon, but they serve breakfast all day. Of course, before I even set foot in the door, I knew I was going to have a biscuit!! The friendly waiter explained many of the specials and must have said (at least three times) how wonderful the oatmeal pancakes were. I rarely eat pancakes, but he was going on and on how he eats them every day. I'd personally rather have a waffle or french toast. The menu at this place has a little bit of everything: pasta, meats, chicken, and of course breakfast food. I looked at the menu on the breakfast side, and I went the simple route and had an egg biscuit and coffee.

The biscuit was high unlike any other I have ever seen! Usually, biscuits are flatter in restaurants that I frequent. I believe there was a touch of cinnamon in the batter. Not exactly sure of all the spices, but it was a nice subtle taste. Along side was a butter made with cranberries and cinnamon. I've had "apple butter", but never cranberry butter. I took the top off of the biscuit, slathered (I like that term) it with butter and topped it with the cran-butter. I ate the other part of the biscuit with egg and cheese separately. I'm one to eat with a fork anyway, so it was not a problem taking apart the biscuit to eat.

The biscuit had a nice flavor, but I'm so used to a different texture biscuit. It was "fluffy" on the inside, but he outside was crunchy! I'm not wild about the crunchy-crusted biscuit, but the flavor won over the crunch! I was spoiled by my former mother in law who made biscuits from scratch. They were soft, tender, and melt in your mouth delicious. Visit this posting to read more about her biscuits:

...another biscuit memory.... Guess who else makes terrific biscuits? My brother!!! I know he is an awesome cook, but had never had his biscuits. I'm sure he learned from his southern born wife how to make them as I know he didn't learn from our mom. We had the kind that came out of the can on the rare occasion that we had biscuits. I'll even make them on rare occasion myself. Not from the can though... but the freezer!! Hey, they aren't that bad if you just want to have ONE or TWO biscuits!

Yes, I'll go back and visit this place to give the biscuits another try. Perhaps with gravy next time....southern style! I'm sure that would soften up the "crunch". From experience, I know that they can be overcooked just a tad and lose their soft texture.

The place was so colorful, bright, and cheerful I'd go back just for that atmosphere! Nice, friendly staff also is a plus in any dining decision made!! Plus, with a menu selection as varied as this cafe, I'm sure there will be other foods just as delicious!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The beach...............

Summer time....thoughts of sitting on the beach enjoying a nice picnic lunch. Listening to the sound of the ocean taking my thoughts away from daily stresses of life, smelling the salt air, and walking on the beach bring peace and comfort. After a morning on the beach, sitting on the deck enjoying a light lunch of chicken salad, hearty bread, and sparkling water, is the perfect summer lunch. I will admit that I eat my fair share of seafood at the beach, but I can have a few non-seafood lunches!

With all of the fresh fruit at the market now, I have a refrigerator full; grapes, cantaloupe, watermelon, and strawberries are a few. I don't eat meat every day, but I wanted chicken salad for lunch. Not "regular" chicken salad, but curry chicken salad. It's refreshing and delicious. The addition of grapes and apple make it a refreshing blend of ingredients. It's a great salad for a picnic, bridal or baby shower, or afternoon tea.

I gently poach the chicken breast in water, a handful of fresh parsley, stalk of celery, lemon pepper, black peppercorns (3 or 4) and a little salt. (I toss in a few sprigs of lemon thyme because it's thriving on my deck). I cook the chicken until it is fork tender...a gentle simmer. After it is cooked, I strain the broth and freeze it for future use. It's much better than canned and a whole lot better than the granules.

Curry Chicken Salad

3 cups shredded chicken (I use breast meat only) . I poached about 4 chicken breast. (If you make too much, you can always freeze the extra)
1 large stalk celery, chopped
1 Fuji apple cut into dice (do not peel). You can also use Granny Smith Apple, but I like Fuji
1/2 cup red seedkess grapes, halved
1/2 cup sliced almonds if desired

Put the cut apple in a little bowl and sprinkle with juice of 1 lemon. (I usually add the zest of the lemon to the salad too). Shred chicken and put in large bowl with celery, grapes and diced apple. The nice thing about this salad is you can pick and choose what you want to add or delete. If you are in a hurry, you can get the plain rotisserie chicken and use that. I like to make my own...just my preference. :) Some may prefer pecans or walnuts in lieu of almonds. If you don't have honey mustard, add 1 teaspoon of honey and 1 teaspoon of Dijon or yellow mustard. One time I made it and added tons of curry! Lesson learned the hard way... add a little more at a time if desired. I went overboard and definitely had "CURRY" chicken salad. I ate it though.... spicy, spicy, spicy!

Mix in the following dressing:

1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream (or you can use Greek yogurt if you like)
1 tablespoon honey mustard
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 1/2 tsp curry powder (I like it heavy on the curry taste... try 1/2 tsp first and add more if you desire)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
zest of one lemon

Toss to coat. Depending on how moist you like the salad, you can add a little more mayo. This is really good on a hearty white bread from the deli.


Ingredients I must have in my kitchen (It's a long list, but I try and have these items on hand)

  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Cheese
  • Cumin
  • Curry
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Fresh Bread
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Greek Oregano
  • Kalamata Olives
  • Lemon ( At least 3 or 4 ALWAYS)
  • Peppers (Wax, Jalapeno, banana)
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Regular Olive Oil
  • Rice
  • Salad Ingredients
  • Sea Salt
  • Spanish Olives
  • White Balsamic Vinegar